A Day of Silence at the Aerie

I just can’t listen to any more of it.

I’m home today, catching up on paperwork, yard work, and home construction chores that I’ve been putting off for too long. When I’m home — unless I’m writing — I almost always have the radio on with NPR (specifically NWPR) tuned in. I get the news from Morning Edition; listen to news analysis and opinions and learn about new books on The Diane Rehm Show; get more of the same from On Point, Here & Now, PRI’s The World, Fresh Air, All Things Considered, and Marketplace; and learn interesting scientific things on Science Friday. If I’m up early enough, I hear BBC World Service, which offers an interesting perspective on current events throughout the world and if I’m still tuned in late in the evening (at home or in my car), I listen to q from CBC. On weekends, if I’m tuned in, I really enjoy Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! and a bunch of other entertaining and/or humorous shows, many of which I also listen to on podcasts so I don’t miss them. (I actually listen to quite a few NPR podcasts, but that’s a whole different blog post.)

NPR, which they say leans left politically, gives me a solid basis of information for me to form my own opinions. Because yes: I am one of the few Americans who can tell the difference between fact and opinion. And I’m among the group of even fewer Americans who actually cares.

But today things are different.

The Orlando shooting happened early yesterday morning, and it’s all over the news today. It’s the same old collection of politician and religious leader “thoughts and prayers,” ultra liberals demanding all guns be banned, ultra conservatives trying to place blame on Muslims, crazy Christians praising the killer for murdering gays, et cetera, ad nauseam. There’s a constant rehashing of what’s known and what’s suspected as the media and public try to figure out whether it should be labeled as terrorism or a hate crime.

As if it really matters.

50 innocent people were killed on Sunday morning and many others seriously injured by a man who apparently had only two guns on him. How does that even happen? How is it that we’re legally allowed to buy guns capable of killing that many people in that short a time?

And who cares whether this was jihad or he was Muslim or white or a citizen or hated to see men kissing. Who fucking cares?

The fact is, he was on an FBI watch list but because our laws don’t prohibit possible terrorists from buying guns, he was able to do so. That’s a fact. There’s no opinion there. He was on a watch list. Period. He was able to legally buy guns that he then used to kill 50 people. Period.

Am I the only person who sees a problem with this?

And the American people are powerless to make the killings stop. Why? Because the NRA buys more politicians than we can ever hope to. And those politicians kill any bill that would limit firearms sales.

Because back in 1791, after fighting a war to get our independence — a war that depended, in great part, on a citizen militia — the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution was adopted and it said:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

Apparently, many people seem to think these 27 words mean that any American has the right to own any kind of weapon for any reason.

I don’t think automatic assault rifles used to kill 50 people in a bar is what our founding fathers had in mind.

But it doesn’t really matter what I think. I don’t have enough money to buy members of the Congress and Senate. The NRA does. And it gets that money from people who apparently think it’s okay to arm anyone with any weapon they like.

Because Second Amendment.

So the radio is off at the Flying M Aerie today. I simply can’t bear to listen to the news I’m powerless to do anything about.

It didn’t start that way. I listened to about 10 minutes of Morning Edition before I’d had enough and turned it off. I’ve got my aviation radio on instead. I can hear the few planes and helicopters call in as they land or take off from the airport 3 miles from my home.

Otherwise, silence.

Silence for the 50 people who will never speak again.

And the thousands of people killed in senseless gun violence in this country before them.

17 thoughts on “A Day of Silence at the Aerie

  1. Maria,
    This is a tragedy. I also cannot stand all of the media coverage after any event like this. I read your blog because you often correct misinformation about flying and helicopter operations in it. I am a helicopter pilot, and appreciate the effort you make to educate the public on operations. I want to help correct some misinformation with your post. The ar15 is not an automatic weapon. It is semi-automatic. An automatic shoots multiple times with each trigger pull, a semi automatic is limited to one shot per trigger pull.

    While it is possible to buy fully automatic weapons, the process to obtain them involves a tax, an application, full background check, and getting a local chief law enforcement officer to sign your application.

    Meanwhile, semi-automatic weapons are much easier to buy. A basic background check is run while you wait in store, usually taking less than an hour. Then you go home.

    I absolutely agree that the fact that he was on a watch list and still was able to buy any kind of firearm without raising an alarm to the FBI to be questionable. What is the point of the watch list if the FBI doesn’t actually take any action?

    However, my main issue with gun control is this. If he had not been able to legally purchase the gun, he could have gone to less than legal means to obtain one. Criminals are already planning to break the law, and breaking one more to obtain a gun is generally not a deterrent.

    • Why indeed is there a watch list?

      I’m sorry, but I can’t agree about the gun control point you’ve brought up. Yes, criminals will still find a way to buy guys. But this guy wasn’t a criminal. He was a hater, a domestic terrorist, and likely a nut. Could he still have gotten the guns he used if better controls were in place? Maybe. But maybe not. Imagine how many of these incidents could be prevented if it were harder for people who couldn’t pass the checks to get the guns they wanted. Or if the automatic weapons that kill so many people so quickly were simply unavailable.

      It’s the same story, over and over. And the same excuses. I’m just so tired of it. It’s time to do something. Why won’t we?

  2. Well said Maria.
    I share your views about civilians and assault weapons and we agree about religion. I also trust the BBC World Service.
    Seen from the UK, this constant slaughter of the innocent, which seems to be a monthly ritual in the US, is beyond our understanding. ( Mainland Europe has slacker laws on gun trading than in the UK.)
    We are not ‘anti-gun’, we merely apply for the guns we need. If your crops are eaten by crows or pigeons, you will get your shotgun licence, if you have no criminal or psychiatric history. Likewise, if deer are killing your trees or there are too many of them you will get your rifle permit, but someone might ask you to demonstrate that you are a good enough shot and that your gun is locked away.
    Multi shot magazines and handguns, – forget it.

    On our trips to the US we rapidly stop listening to the radio or watching the TV. The endless intrusion of ads and the triumph of simplistic Trump-type attitudes in the public space makes the experience at first ludicrous, then painful.

    • It’s absolutely absurd that we continue to allow this to happen. I’m a gun owner and I have some understanding of why normal people might want to own a gun. But NO ONE needs an automatic assault weapon. They should not be allowed. Background checks should be more thorough. Guns should be registered. People on watch lists for any reason should not be allowed to buy guns.

      No, this won’t stop it. At this point, I don’t think anything will. But it might reduce the number of these tragedies we have every year.

      It’s a sad time to be an American.

  3. Well said, Maria. I agree with what you wrote.

    Days of silence are a good thing in all kinds of ways. I do this on a fairly regular basis, but probably not often enough.

    I also enjoy just listening to music, especially my own or Pandora or something without any ads or unwanted invasion.

  4. Hello Maria, I usually don’t chime in where it’s transparently obvious that people have already made up their minds, since there’s no point wasting my time convincing those who have decided to close their minds on a subject. In this case I’m going to make an exception, since your past posts make it seem that you are both reasonable and amenable to logic. You say that you are a gun owner and have some familiarity with firearms, yet you speak on this subject using terms that make you sound ignorant. Given your radio playlist, I suppose it’s no accident that you use the same skewed and biased catchphrases that NPR endlessly repeats; phrases deliberately designed to sound reasonable and balanced when they are anything but. Even the term “assault weapon” is nothing more than a carefully designed propaganda tool. The word “automatic” also has a specific meaning when it comes to firearms, and another poster has already pointed out that you are using it incorrectly.

    Why do I focus on the minutia of terminology when the main point is that a hate-filled madman committed a horrific slaughter against unarmed revelers in Orlando? Because in this case, the words matter. I’m guessing that you can’t stand the ignorance of the average newscaster when they say something stupid and illogical about helicopters following a crash or an incident, which they do so often. Likewise, if you want to be part of the gun-control versus gun-rights argument, you need to get your terminology right. Using words and phrases that are incorrect and inherently biased just makes it easy for people to ignore you, since it exposes you as being ignorant on the subject. If you want to have a chance at changing opinions, especially if you goal is to convince someone on the opposite side of the argument that your opinion matters, you can’t start off sounding ignorant on the subject.

    At this point I won’t even get into how many things went wrong with the situation in Florida or how the shooting might have been prevented, but I will leave you with one fact to consider.

    FACT: it is legal for private citizens to own automatic weapons in the United States. By this I mean real, genuine fully-automatic fireams, actual machine guns. There are about 360,000 of them owned by collectors, ranging from small sub-machine guns such as an Uzi to 3000 rounds-per-minute gatling-style miniguns like you probably saw in the movie “The Matrix”. The number in circulation was frozen in 1986 by President Bush the Senior in an egregious abuse of executive power, which unfortunately has become all too common in subsequent presidencies. Ownership of these weapons is subject to a $200 tax and reams of paperwork, including an extensive background check, fingerprints, and long waiting times for the BATF to process the applications.

    Why do I mention that fact? Because the corresponding FACT is that those LEGAL machine guns are essentially NEVER used to commit crimes. The limited supply of legal machine guns coupled with a seemingly insatiable demand to own them means that prices have gone through the roof. A legal full-auto version of the basic Army M-16 that cost about $600 in 1986 runs about $15,000 today, if you can find someone who wants to sell theirs. Machine guns have turned out to be perhaps the most recession-proof investment ever, despite the fact that the paperwork burden is excessive and intrusive.

    Again, what does this have to do with the Orlando Nightclub shootings? Nothing, unless you use the phrase “automatic assault weapon” in your arguments as to what needs to change about our weapons laws to try and prevent another similar atrocity. Get your facts straight if you want to be taken seriously, regardless of your topic.

    • Wow. As a reader here as well, I’m quite open minded and appreciate open-minded, respectful discussions with people of varying opinions. There’s a huge difference, however, between being closed minded and having a different opinion, outlook.

      In addition, insults and denigrating remarks aren’t helpful and are instead off-putting … IOW, not a way to have an open minded, respectful discussion.

      • I agree about the off-putting tone of his comments — which is why I didn’t bother to read them through. You can’t reason with people when you insult them. Some people simply can’t get that. For many people on the other side of the issue from you and me, this is a very emotional subject. They have a lot of fear, much of it fed to them by certain media outlets. Because they can’t get through to us with facts, they go into attack mode. All they do is make it worse for themselves and their cause. I don’t find their argument reasonable, given today’s world and current events. But I’m done arguing with them. It’s just not worth the time.

  5. If you believe that I am being deliberately insulting or that my remarks were intended to denigrate (which is itself a highly loaded term with racist overtones), you have taken entirely the wrong meaning from my original comment. My point is that the language used by the opposing sides in the gun control versus gun rights argument has devolved into a sort of jargon-filled code-word tennis match. Terms are routinely thrown back and forth which sound the same, yet mean entirely different things to the different sides. Just as it’s impossible to have a meaningful conversation between two people who speak different languages, it’s not possible to have a meaningful conversation with a gun-rights “true believer” when you toss out terms like “automatic assault weapon”.

    To a gun-rights zealot (and I use that word deliberately) the use of that phrase in particular is a huge red flag that says “this person only ‘knows’ what he/she can parrot back from the liberal media”. It turns the conversation off before it even starts. Essentially, it’s like a white guy trying to make a logical point about racial privilege while only using the work “niggers” when referring to blacks. Yes, it’s that loaded! There are a handful of other phrases which are bandied back and forth when we get to yelling at each other on this topic that have similar (and unintended) consequences when used. Like it or not (and I don’t), the opposing camps on this issue have settled into their confirmation-bias foxholes, where their own viewpoints are continually reinforced through their choice of media outlets.

    And as to the original topic, as a gun-rights “true believer” even I can see that it’s time to do something about decreasing the availability of military-style semi-automatic rifles with high-capacity magazines to hotheads and crazy people . A few years (and a few mass-shootings) ago I would have said “no, never, ever compromise, under any circumstance”, but the world changes around us even if we don’t want it to. If it were up to me I’d propose that we start restricting the future sale of these type weapons similarly to the way we used to restrict machine-gun sales, before the 1986 “freeze”. People who really want one could still get one, but they’d be vetted first, and there would be time for a thorough background check. This idea is anathema to the gun-rights crowd, but I think its time has come.

    The real problem, as always, is in the details. Any attempt to register or confiscate existing weapons in this category would be met with a firestorm. The consequences would likely range from simple Canadian-style non-compliance (research “long gun registration” for details) to almost certain instances of lethal resistance towards law enforcement. If you consider that hyperbole, you haven’t been paying attention to the level of vitriol and invective being used by the pro-gun side. The level of mistrust of the government on this issue is almost impossible to overstate.

    And that is really what the whole thing boils down to, trust. Obviously some people can’t be trusted with military-style weapons, or any firearms for that matter. On the other hand, firearms owners in the U.S. don’t trust the government to wisely or correctly decide who can be trusted with them and who can’t. The history of firearms legislation in this country is full of wild over-reactions, blanket solutions to pinpoint problems, and gross violations of both trust and the law itself on the part of federal, state, and especially local government agencies. It’s no wonder that advocacy groups like the NRA (who is by no means the most zealous) hold such a hard line on issues. Their opponents have proven over and over again that any compromise on issues will be violated both in spirit and in law, so no compromise can be made no matter how severe the provocation.

    We need to get to a place where we can rationally discuss an issue that has vociferous extremists on both sides, without letting those extremists dominate and control the conversation. We need to acknowledge that any workable solution will be needfully complex and nuanced, and will have to be a true compromise where both sides get some of what they want and nobody is totally happy. We need to work together to find a solution to a problem that is so loaded with anger, fear, and mistrust that it’s almost impossible to even hold a rational conversation.

    One way to begin that conversation is to agree to at least use a common language. If we want to work together to find a solution that will actually work rather than just keep the “bumper sticker” crowd happy, both sides need to start using less absolutist terms, and less incendiary language. It’s hard to do that if you don’t even know when the words you’re using are fraught with unintended meaning.

    • I honestly didn’t even read everything you wrote. I didn’t read this one, either. I did say you were wasting your time, didn’t I? Do I need to go back and look at it? Delelete it for insulting someone? Do I need to blacklist you from this blog for violating the comments policy? I hope the answer is not yes. Differing opinions are welcome, but insults are not.

      I’m simply tired of the “conversation.” It’s time for action.

      I have given this matter a huge amount of consideration and I have formed my opinion based on facts from many sources and discussions with many people. I’m simply tired of talking about it. Maybe someone else on this thread will humor you with a “conversation.” I won’t.

  6. “You can’t reason with people when you insult them.”

    Your words, but also the main point of my comments. If you had read them all the way through you might have seen that.

  7. Duncan and Sean are technically correct to distinguish between automatic and semi-automatic weapons but in the context of the awful firearms death toll in the US this distinction seems trivial. A distraction from the main argument.
    I sense that most Americans believe that there are too many guns held by too many unsuitable people but they don’t know how to reduce the numbers of legally held weapons without letting the bad-guys stay armed to the teeth.
    Let’s consider a few facts and examples.

    1) Nations can reduce gun ownership and thus gun deaths, by legislation, amnesties and long prison sentences for non-compliance.
    ( Two Brits who tried to import 18 Czech semi automatics were sentenced to 30 years last month. The guns were bought as ‘de-activated’).

    2) US gun ownership is strongly motivated by fear. Most of my US relatives own guns because they want to be ready if ‘the bad-guy storms the house’. They know nothing about firearms and are more likely to shoot each other. My aunt kept a small pistol in the glove compartment of her car. It was only fired once and that was by accident when she needed her flash light. She was terrified. The US needs to reduce fear generally.
    Fear of poverty, race and inequality.

    3) Guns should be allowed for those who need them. Why would any civilian need an AR 15, in any context? They are designed to kill people quickly. The owners should be asked to explain why they want such a weapon. Why allow hunting rifles for urban people who never go hunting?

    I bought a belt buckle in West Virginia a few years ago, it has the following motif: ‘I will give up my gun when you prise my cold dead fingers from it”. I thought that was an exercise in wit and hyperbole. I was wrong. Some Americans really believe that. In fact the most common ultimate use of an American handgun is for the suicide of its male owner. It seems that the enemy is within.

  8. Maria has a valid point here, people are tired of arguing about this subject, on both sides. To a large extent we’ve retired to our respective corners of the verbal boxing ring, and we only come out to punch each other about the same old things. She’s also written before about the tendency for people to self-select which news they choose to believe and how they ignore that which they disagree with. It’s so common that the social scientist types have a name for it, “confirmation bias”. The truth is that until and unless we learn to listen, not just hear, what people with opposing viewpoints have to say we’ll just keep on punching until we’re all exhausted.

What do you think?